The Village House is our exploration of the possibilities of the summer cabin, the traditional Danish vacation home. While keeping our cabin’s footprint small, in every sense, we have imbued it with a wide range of spatial possibilities, by using a five-fingered floor plan.
When we were first asked to design a holiday home in northern Sjælland in 2010, we couldn’t help but notice that ‘traditional’ Danish summerhouses had been increasing in size. They were becoming less and less distinguishable from the everyday homes that holidaymakers were leaving behind.
A star-shaped central space forms a shared area which nevertheless offers pockets of seclusion
We set out to revive the scale of the classic cabin. Our finished building measures only 110m². The smaller size means low maintenance costs and ease of use. But at the same time, we wanted to create a flexible solution for a growing family, whose needs will change over time.
1 Living room
3 Dining room
6 Master bedroom
7 Bath room
8 Covered terrace
9 Open terrace
Our house is actually a cluster of five wings, like miniature cabins. These fan out like a hand spreading five fingers over the site, generating a variety of views, light effects and outdoor areas. The variation means the house provides an enjoyable environment all year round and at all times of day. For example, a large window above the living room allows sunlight to bathe the dining table at around midday.
Summerhouses are family spaces, but older children need more independence from their parents. Hence the ‘village of cabins’ organisation, with radiating individual spaces that are united in the centre. Each member of the family effectively has the option of privacy when they need it. Meanwhile a star-shaped central space, uniting the living room and kitchen, forms a shared area which nevertheless offers pockets of seclusion for spending time alone while still in the family circle.
The five-fingered design also had the advantage of creating the best views and indoor/outside spaces, while limiting the complexity of the structure and thus keeping the project within budget.
The solution faithfully reflects the rather different yet complementary desires of the family members. One wanted a picturesque, cosy and archetypal summerhouse, while another wanted a spacious and contemporary space. Both feelings are united in our design, which is typical of our work in that what prevails is not a pre-set style, or stylistic signature, but the living experience that the building provides.
Our role models are quite often in the USA: American architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Kahn, but also those Europeans who migrated west like Mies and Neutra. This produces a particular combination of architectural cultures – a great mixture of restraint, coherence and freedom.
In basing Village House on the classic Danish summerhouse, while adding modern ideas of space, we have attempted a similar mix. Our simple wooden structure has a pitched roof. It is black, the most discreet colour in nature, like the dark shadows in the surrounding woods. Inside, the uniform white surface maximizes the northern light.
Our rustic but modern solution is low maintenance, which is more important for a holiday home than offering extensive spaces. From an architectural point of view, its close relationship to its context is especially significant in a holiday home. The house contrasts with the routine home of the clients, and provides the basis for an alternate lifestyle. Isn’t that what we are looking for when we go on holiday?